Special election

Sunday, December 9, 2012

After Nov. 6, most of us probably thought we'd see a reprieve from election politics -- at least for a few months. But with the announcement that U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson will step down in February to become president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, 2013 is shaping up to be a significant year for politics in this area.

For 31 years an Emerson has held this area's congressional seat. It was in 1980 that Bill Emerson won a landmark victory for Southeast Missouri Republicans. After his death in 1996, his wife Jo Ann ran and won an election to finish his term. She went on to win nine more elections to the House and has been a major power player in Southeast Missouri politics.

The announcement that Emerson will step aside sent Swift reaction throughout the district, which includes 30 counties in southern and eastern Missouri. Speculation started early about who will replace the 10-term member of Congress, with many potential candidates already having expressed interest. But this election will be different from a normal election year.

Instead of a primary, party committees in the district -- Democrat, Republican, Constitution and Libertarian -- may nominate candidates for the special election. Gov. Jay Nixon will set an election date after Emerson resigns. According to the secretary of state's office, Nixon must give local election authorities at least 10 weeks notice for the special election.

Emerson has said her plan is to make Feb. 8 her last day in the office. After the resignation, her staff will stay in place and be managed by the clerk of the House of Representatives until the next representative is elected.

In addition to the forthcoming political party nominees, independent and write-in candidates also are allowed. According to the secretary of state's office, independent candidates must collect voter signatures totaling at least 2 percent of the total votes cast in the 8th Congressional District contest that was held in November. Write-in candidates must file a declaration of intent with the secretary of state's office no later than the second Friday before the special election.

Emerson's resignation came as a surprise to many. Regardless, her departure means the coming year will be an interesting one in the political world as candidates jockey to become the next member of Congress.

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